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“Ineffective And Disastrous”: Why The NRA’s Plan To Put Armed Guards In Every School Won’t Work

Before we just laugh away the NRA’s plan to put armed guards (either police or volunteers) in every school in America, it’s worth at least asking: Would it even work? People who actually study gun violence were not impressed.

“The statement by the NRA is without any evidence that it would be effective,” said Dr. Fred Rivara, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington and the editor-in-chief of the pediatrics division of the Journal of the American Medical Association, in an email to Salon.

In fact, there was an armed sheriff’s deputy at Columbine High School the day of the shooting. There was an armed citizen in the Clackamas Mall in Oregon during a shooting earlier this month. There was an armed citizen at the Gabby Giffords shooting – and he almost shot the unarmed hero who tackled shooter Jared Loughner. Virtually every university in the county already has its own police force. Virginia Tech had its own SWAT-like team. As James Brady, Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary and gun control advocate, often notes, he was shot along with the president, despite the fact that they were surrounded by dozens of heavily armed and well-trained Secret Service agents and police.

“It’s kind of fantasy thinking to assume that armed citizens are going to take out the bad guy and that nothing will go wrong,” Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told me last week for a separate article on why the answer to gun violence is not more guns.

And what happens to the guns while they’re sitting around waiting for a mass killing to occur? They could be discovered by a suicidal student, unintentionally fired by a child or even inadvertently set off by a police officer, like this Oakland, California, cop who shot himself in front of a classroom full of students three years ago.

Today, Dr. Jerome Kassirer of Tufts University’s School of Medicine wrote that arming school teachers and nurses is a bad idea. “If we judge by recent experiences, this strategy is wanting. In Florida, a ‘neighborhood watch coordinator’ killed an unarmed boy who was acting suspiciously; and near the Empire State Building, police fire injured 9 pedestrians while they were subduing 1 shooter. Would ‘more guns’ lead to fewer gun deaths? Unlikely.”

Instead, the experts call for expanding federal support for gun violence research (Congress has statutorily limited gun violence research for political reasons since the 1990s), protecting doctors’ rights to ask patients about guns, and the passage of common-sense gun regulations like a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Arthur Kellerman, a prominent gun violence researcher now at the RAND Corporation, worried the NRA’s plan would only increase the number of guns that could cause harm. “Armed guards? Do they have any idea how many schools, kindergartens, day cares, ball fields, and playgrounds there are? Where would this stop?” he asked in an email.

Meanwhile, as Josh Barro points out, schools are already relatively very safe. There were just 15 homicides out of a population of 55.6 million K–12 students in the 2008–09 school year (giving you a 1 in 3 million chance of being killed at school), and students outside of school are twice as likely to be victims of serious crimes as those inside schools. Matt Yglesias adds that the NRA’s plan is a horribly inefficient use of resources, as you’re better off using those extra police officers elsewhere.

“Rather than seize this opportunity to show the American public the NRA can be a rational partner committed to preventing more innocent children from being murdered, we saw an NRA leadership today that was reactionary, tone deaf and out-of-sync with the majority of gun owners in this country,” Alicia Samuels, the communications director for the Johns Hopkins’s gun research center told Salon. “Wayne LaPierre is not in a position to speak on behalf of every parent, child, teacher and school administrator in this country whose lives would be most impacted by this fanatic, dangerous idea. The only people who benefit from this extremist more-guns mentality are gun manufacturers.”

Watch this 20/20 special from 2009 where they set up a realistic experiment to see if people are even capable of responding to school shootings effectively. The answer? Almost certainly not.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Real Plan B”: Pay For NRA’s Armed Guard Plan With A Gun Tax

After a week of radio silence after the Sandy Hook massacre, the National Rifle Association resurfaced today with a predictable solution to protecting the nation’s schoolchildren from gun violence: More guns.

At a press conference, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre proposed putting an armed police officer in every school in the nation, to guard against the “unknown number of genuine monsters” that he says are waiting for their chance to mount a similar assault. “With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school?” asked LaPierre.

LaPierre says an armed presence on school grounds actually would provide what he touts as “absolute protection” against an attack—a shaky assumption, considering that Columbine High School had an armed county sheriff’s deputy on the campus when it was attacked by two teenage gunmen in 1999, and he was unable to prevent them from killing a dozen students and a teacher, and injuring 21 others.

But let’s assume that LaPierre is right, and that putting an armed officer in each of the nation’s 132,183 public and private schools would make schools safer. How would we fund it? According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the nation has 461,000 local police officers, but they already have plenty of responsibilities to keep them busy, and it’s hard to imagine police departments allocating more than a quarter of their personnel to watching over schools. So clearly, we’d have to recruit, hire, equip and train more officers for the job. According to the agency, the average total operating cost of each officer—including salary, benefits, equipment, and training—is $116,500.

That means that the NRA’s proposal would cost taxpayers about $15.4 billion annually.

I know that LaPierre doesn’t think that’s a lot of money compared to what we spend on foreign aid, but in fact, it is well more than any item in the foreign aid budget. According the State Department’s FY 2013 fact sheet, the cost of providing an armed officer to every school in the nation would amount to five times what we provide in military assistance to Israel ($3.1 billion in 2012), and nearly four times the $4 billion that we spend on humanitarian assistance to war refugees and victims of natural disasters. It would amount to 15 times what we spend to support the United Nations and other international organizations.

So we’re talking about a lot of bucks here, especially at a time when federal taxes seem almost certain to go up for most Americans in 2013. Is it fair that the majority—70 percent of Americans, according to this 2011 survey—who don’t own guns should pay higher taxes to support the NRA’s idea, because of LaPierre’s insistence that gun control laws are unfair to gun owners?

I say no. Instead, here’s a counter-proposal. Let’s tax gun purchases to subsidize the cost of the NRA’s school security proposal. Gun owners bought 10.8 million firearms in 2011, according to Ammoland, a website for gun enthusiasts. At a surcharge of, say, $1,425 per weapon, we’d have enough to provide the absolute protection that LaPierre wants. We might be able to lower that a bit by adding additional taxes to ammunition as well.


By: Patrick Kiger, U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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